A true Punjabi, incredibly creative and strong-willed, Zafar Ullah Poshni will be dearly missed by his family and friends
When I started calling him Mamma Jee, he asked my mother why Usman calls him Mamma Jee rather than the more traditional Mamoo Jaan. My mother said, |”because you are a Punjabi,” he wholeheartedly agreed and added, “very true and very proud to be a Punjabi.”
Zafar Ullah Poshni was born on May 5, 1926, in Amritsar in a Kashmiri family. His father was Khan Bahadur Rehmat Ullah. The family house was on Maqbool Road. At school he was taught by a Parsi teacher, Madam Ghai, who was a sister to Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw.
Poshni joined the British Indian Army and was commissioned in March 1945 in the 16 Punjab Regiment. At the time of the partition, he was posted at Jabalpur and took charge of Pakistan’s share of signals equipment and delivered it to Pakistan six months after the partition. At the Army Signals School, he was an instructor to Captain Sarwar Shaheed, Nishan-i-Haider. He kept in his office all his life a picture of him sitting along with his illustrious student.
In 1951, Captain Zafar Ullah Poshni was arrested along with some distinguished military officers and civilians in what came to be known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. The four-plus years that he spent in the company of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Sajjad Zaheer and some senior military officers have been eloquently portrayed in his book Zindagi Zindaan Dilli Kaa Naam Haay.
As an intellectual, his interests were varied and many. From Russian literature to the poetry of Keats and Wordsworth, he knew it all. However, Ghalib, Faiz and Momin remained his favourites; he often shared their timeless couplets, especially after good food and drinks.
After release from imprisonment, Poshni joined the University Law College, Lahore, and passed the LLB examination in first class but was unable to pursue a career in law. In February 1959, he joined the Manhattan Advertising in Karachi as a copywriter. Later, he became the creative director at the company. He worked there for over 60 years - until Covid intervened.
In the 1970s he penned the famous ISPR advert, Pakistani Fauj Kay Jawan Hain Hum, Har Ghari Taiyar Kamran Hain Hum.
At 65 years of age, he used to run five miles every day. He kept up with his daily exercise till he was in his early 90s. Incredibly handsome, he retained his looks till the last day.
As an intellectual, his interests were varied and many. From Russian literature to the poetry of Keats and Wordsworth, he knew it all. However, Ghalib, Faiz and Momin remained his favourites; he often shared their timeless couplets, especially after good food and drinks. Being related to famous Urdu short story writer Saadat Hasan Manto, Poshni would recount his stay in Bombay at the writer’s residence.
He could sing well, especially the Punjabi songs. On my mehndi, he sang the famous Jagga in traditional Punjabi to the delight of all present.
In some sense, Poshni remained a soldier at heart. Politically, he was a true democrat and liberal to the core, far ahead of his times and could not tolerate bigotry of any shade and colour. He was all for female emancipation, and that was reflected in his own house.
It could be aptly stated that my Mamma Jee was above the distinctions of right and left in his life.
The writer is an edu-preneur and a graduate of the
University of Cambridge